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Prelude

A Creatura Novella

(Creatura .05)

Nely Cab

THIS book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Prelude

Copyright ©2015 Nely Cab

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-63422-115-3

Cover Design by: Phat Puppy

Typography by: Mayra Heiman

Interior Typography by: Courtney Nuckels

Editing by: Cynthia Shepp

Shakespir Edition

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For my son, Max, who reminds me that

innocence is precious.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

who created these?

~Isaiah 40:26

DAY 1

First, I am darkness. Then, I am light. Now, I am the first.

I stand at the top of the highest mountain and strain to see what seems like the edge of the world I have only now created. There is no actual need to strain my vision as I can see everything everywhere, but I like to pretend I’m the same as the humans I’ve created in future Earth—Terra is what I originally name it.

In the distance, something catches my eye. It’s a fawn. I reach out to her and instantly, I am there. Her fur is tinged with bright red. The larger animals I created have grown hungry and are preying on my more-docile creatures. It frustrates me to a degree that I already want them extinct, but then the whole food chain would suffer, and I would regret it. I leave it be.

I watch as the young deer’s eyes sparkle, unblinking. Her breathing has ceased, and I understand what’s happened. I feel a light breeze around me—her essence. I know it’s an end to her suffering. I should be happy, but instead, I’m angry that this fawn’s life doesn’t exist on my new Terra any longer. In my mind, I observe the circle of life and know that this is the way it must, and will always, be. I’m sure I’ll never grow used to death.

I am back on the mountain; I sit and continue my labor.

DAY 2

Morning has come for the first time, and it overwhelms me. The sky is filled with so many shades of ginger and garnet that all I can do is stare, paralyzed by its beauty. The sun is like liquid gold, rising to take its throne in the cerulean heavens. I know I created it, but I, myself, can hardly believe I did. I feel the need to share the beauty of the universe with someone, but there’s no one here. However, that can be changed… I can change it.

Using two fingers, I draw two shapes on each of my arms—triangles. I command them to be released, and they are. This is my flesh, and I will mold it.

I could easily say, “Be,” and she would appear, but I want to take the time to sculpt her. I want to see every tiny particle, every layer of muscle slowly become her. I don’t want to overlook a single detail.

In the clouds, I begin to shape her. I name her Starr.

My fingers work with precision to complete her. I’m still in awe over the level of craftsmanship my small hands possess. I pause and take a step back to admire my work. She’s like a little wax statue, and something is missing.

I skip back to the split second when I formed my own body. It’s strange to see myself from this outer perspective. As I observe the image of how I looked yesterday, I notice that I’m a hand’s width taller, and my wings have grown. I also look very young. I smirk at the thought of what the people in the future would think if they ever discovered the creation of the universe was a child’s doing.

My focus goes back to Starr, and I replay the split second and see my body being created over and over again in slow motion. I observe the me-from-yesterday’s chest rise and fall and see what it is she’s missing—her breath. I step forward in time, to the present. It’s only been seconds, but I feel that I miss her. Emotions are strange, I’m learning. Or maybe, I’m still adapting to being in this form… in this small body.

With the back of my hand, I touch her cheek. She’s soft and delicate like the flowers that bloom on Terra. Her eyes are unblinking, amber stones. I want her to speak to me. I want to show her what I’ve built.

Taking her in my arms, I float with her to Terra, picking a green pasture as the first thing she’ll see. I command her to live.

Vivere,” I say, and she takes a breath and blinks.

Suddenly, a deafening scream breaks from her mouth, and I raise my hand to calm her. But like the untamable beasts on Terra, she leaps at me and attacks. I fall—back first—on the grassy pasture and cover my head, blocking each blow she gives me. Somehow, I manage to push her away without hurting her. I stop time, and she’s frozen and crouching with her hands in the shape of claws, baring her teeth. I wonder if she’ll be like the wild animal that killed my fawn.

I sit on the grass and stare at her, pinching my lip. What have I done wrong? I was so careful to create her in my likeness. Then again, this is only the first time I’ve created a person; I may need practice.

I focus on the future and observe the people I create there. In my head, I see images of the human men; they’re afraid of their women. Strange. I remind myself that I’m not like any man because I have absolute reign over everything and everyone; I am Deus, The Creator.

Stepping back into the present, I decide that she has no choice but to obey me.

DAY 51

Seven weeks have passed. I’ve let time continue, but I haven’t moved an inch. I’ve been standing in the same green field staring at a motionless, crouching Starr. She’s a tiny and fierce wax statue again. I consult the Voice of Reason—my soul.

The Voice of Reason is the force that guides me. It’s within me, like a second person, but without a body. It offers its wisdom, which is how I’ve been able to construct the universe. But this voice, it also annoys me, and it won’t let me modify some things, including Starr.

No. This is her essence, and it cannot be changed, my inner self says in my head every time I so much as think to attempt it.

As I watch her, I know that I’m not afraid of Starr like the men of future Earth are afraid of their women. No, not at all. What I am is truly and without a doubt horrified by her demeanor. How could I have made her like this? I don’t know what to do.

In my hand, I materialize a baseball bat.

No. Too violent, the Voice of Reason says.

I sigh. Turning the bat into a long stick, I add leaves to it… and a flower; I don’t want it to look like a weapon. But I rethink my choice, and I believe a golden rod would suit me better.

Too ostentatious, my inner voice hisses.

“Fine,” I say, and I keep the stick.

I look down at Starr and point the stick at her. She’s much too close. I take several steps back, raising the stick again. This time, I’m sure I’m at a relatively safe distance. I swallow hard.

“Why did I create women?” I say to myself, and I wipe the beads of sweat from my forehead.

The inner me laughs. She’s a child.

“You will do as I say,” I tell Starr, pointing the rod at her. “And know that I am Deus and… and I give life, and I can take it… and uh… and no one else is as powerful… and also…”

My inner self is in a fit of laughter over my speech.

“Oh, to hell with this,” I say. “Vivere!

Without warning, Starr leaps forward, and I’m sprinting across the field like the devil is chasing me. For a moment, I think it might be the case, and I hear a shriek. My inner self is in hysterics again, projecting images in my head of what I look like screaming and running from my bride-to-be. I look like a demented chicken, my wings, arms, and legs flailing every which way. The image makes me laugh. The feeling is incredible, and uncontrollable cackles escape me. Tears flood my eyes, and I can no longer see where I’m going. My stomach cramps, and I drop to the ground on my knees, breathing raggedly and still laughing.

Through a watery curtain, I see Starr charging toward me, and I freeze. Quickly, I do the only thing I can think of—stop time.

The weight of the universe rests on me, but suddenly, I feel very much like a helpless child. Then I remember I am one—at least physically. Maybe I can’t do this, after all. If I can’t control my own wife, how will I control humanity?

Haaaaaaa! My inner self squawks. Lesson number one learned: Humanity, like wives, cannot be controlled.

“Oh, shut it,” I say, and I rest my back on the grassy pasture and look up at the sun.

DAY 53

In the clouds—in Caelum—Starr’s amber stare has been mocking me for two days. She may be frozen, but her presence can’t be ignored. As I stare back at her with the rod in hand, I think that maybe tying her to this stone chair was a drastic measure. I take a deep breath and for the third time since I molded her, I command her to live.

“Vivere?” I say, and I wince.

Starr tries to lunge forward, but the ropes around her have done their job, keeping her put. “You degenerate!” she screams. “Untie me this instant!”

“Degenerate?” I scowl at her. “I’ve never been so… so…”

Offended, my inner voice says.

“Offended,” I repeat aloud. So this is what that feels like.

“What else would you call yourself?” Starr asks.

“I am Deus, The Creator,” I say. “I give life, and I—”

“Yes, yes. You can take it away. I heard you the first thousand times. But to me, you’re a pervert.”

“I’m no such thing,” I tell her.

“You touched me. [_All _]of me. What does that make you?”

I blink. So that’s why she’s so upset.

“Are you going to deny it?” Starr asks.

“I was molding you—giving you life.”

“You fondled me,” she says accusingly.

“Never!” I gasp, and heat flares through my neck and ears. “How can you say that?”

“I felt it.”

“That’s not possible. You weren’t living.”

“I was alive. You must be the worst creator that ever lived.”

“I’m the only one.”

“That’s disappointing.”

Her remark stings, but I push it aside. “I made you something,” I say. “If you promise not to attack me, I’ll let you free and show you.”

“If you let me free, I’ll take that stick in your hand and stab you with it—a lot.”

I frown at her, and she frowns back.

“Then you’ll stay there… forever, if it’s necessary,” I say, and I turn my back to her.

I reach out to Terra, and in a blink, I am there. I look around and see that night has fallen. The chirps of crickets and night creatures give me comfort, but they don’t take away the frustration from having to deal with this new, crazy girl I don’t understand. Perhaps, if I gave her something…

I step forward into the future.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA—APRIL 1983

I land in an overpriced restaurant and take the form of a waiter. It amazes me that I can do this so easily.

From a corner, I observe a nervous young man as he digs his hand into his coat pocket and pulls out a ring.

“Will you marry me?” he says to the woman sitting across the table from him.

“Oh, Brian!” she sniffs. “Yes!”

Brian kisses his fiancée. The patrons in the restaurant clap, and a few offer their congratulations. He waves at me and for a second, I’m confused. Does he know who I am? Then I notice the bottle of champagne in my hand—Dom Pérignon. I walk to their table and congratulate them as I pop the cork. Before I walk into the past, I peer over my shoulder and smile. I know this couple’s relationship will not end in divorce. This makes me happy.

Stepping back in time and arriving in Terra, I believe this idea is a good one. As I think of gold, a nugget appears in my hand. I ply, shape, meld, and polish it. It’s a perfect circle. It’s simple, but it’s beautiful. I hold it up against the sky, and for some reason, it reminds me of an eclipse. An eclipse?

Out of nowhere, I feel a shift in the future, and it’s as if my stomach has dropped ten thousand feet. I walk into the scene of the change without focusing on the era.

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS—DATE UNKNOWN

I’m in a surgical room surrounded by medical personnel. When I look down at myself, I see I’m wearing a nurse uniform. It’s hard to breathe through the surgical mask, and as I adjust it, I see a woman on a bed next to me. She’s in labor. Suddenly, the room doors swing open and a lady nurse walks in.

“Will it be much longer, Doctor?” she asks. “There are about a dozen more women in labor. It’s like this eclipse is triggering it or something. We need you.”

The doctor doesn’t respond. He holds the newborn up to the light. It’s a girl.

“Doctor?” the woman nurse says.

“I… I’ll be right there,” says the doctor, and another doctor pats him on the back.

“I’ll take care of this,” the second doctor says.

“No,” says the birth doctor. “I can manage. You go on ahead.”

The second doctor nods, and then he steps out of the surgical room.

“Take her,” the birth doctor tells me. “She’s beautiful.”

I reach for the newborn, but he doesn’t let go of her.

“Doctor, the other patients…” the woman nurse says.

“Yes,” the doctor replies, and hesitantly, he hands me the child. “Be careful with her.”

I nod, looking down at the newborn. I’ve never held a baby. How is it that I know who she is, I know what she is, and I love her?

“Don’t just stand there.” Another nurse takes the whimpering baby from me. “Let’s get this little girl cleaned up for her momma.”

I watch as the nurse cleans the remnants of the mother’s womb from the tiny, trembling body. Childbirth is messy, but immediately, I know that children are a miracle.

“Here you go, Mommy,” the nurse says. “Your beautiful, new baby girl.”

The young mother’s eyes fill with tears. I feel in her what it’s like to be a mother. I feel all the love and joy she feels for her child, and it’s overwhelming and unconditional.

“Isis,” she says, kissing the infant’s forehead. “My baby.”

I know there’s much to do before this exact moment in time comes, and I’m worried for the time when it will come. I need to prepare for this great shift. But for now, my focus is on Starr and on perfecting the universe.

I take a deep breath and walk into the present—or past, depending on how you look at it.

I look at the ring in my hand as I arrive in Caelum, and then look at Starr. She’s fidgeting in the stone chair.

“I’m sorry I’ve kept you waiting,” I say to her. “I’ve brought you something.”

She looks at me stoically. I show her the ring, but there’s no reaction from her.

“It’s a ring,” I say. “I thought you might like it. It’s an accessory for your finger.”

“Why does my finger need an accessory?”

_Good question. _

“I made it as a gift for you,” I say.

“You can keep your gift. When are you going to free me? I’m hungry, and this rope is cutting into my arms.”

“I didn’t realize…” I say, and immediately, I loosen the rope, letting it fall at her feet.

“Where did you leave your stick?” she asks, rubbing her forearms. “I need it.”

I make a face, and she laughs. It’s the most delightful sound I’ve ever heard, and I want to hear it again.

“When you laugh, it sounds like music,” I tell her.

She sizes me up. “I know what music is, but what does it sound like?”

“I’ll show you,” I say, and then I reach for her hand, but I catch only air.

“You may not touch me,” she says.

I nod once, and then push us into the future.

ENGLAND—THE DARK AGES (CIRCA 1200 A.D.)

The sound of music is coming from a distance. Merchants are selling rotting produce, bread, meat, and jewelry along the narrow and muddy streets. Starr’s eyes widen as she sees the place I’ve brought us to. But she doesn’t seem to take into account the cold, wet, and dreary day. She doesn’t bother to look at the faces of the starving and ill people around us.

I raise my hand to stop the suffering these people are living, but the Voice of Reason stops me.

Do not intervene, the voice in my head says. Suffering is cruel, yet sometimes necessary.

I let it be in spite of my impulse.

Starr has walked ahead and located the origin of the music. She observes as one man slides a bow across the strings of a rebec and another blows into a flute.

“I sound nothing like that,” she tells me. “You lied.”

“That’s because you can’t hear yourself,” I say.

From the nearest merchant, I pick a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a still-edible apple. I pay the man with more pieces of gold than necessary, and he kisses the coins.

“Bless ye, young sir,” he tells me.

“And bless you,” I say, and it feels good to say it.

“Why did he say that? And why did you say it back?” Starr asks.

“Because a blessing is a wish for everlasting good. That’s what this food is… a blessing.” I tear off a piece of bread and offer it to her.

She takes it and stuffs it in her mouth. When the taste overtakes her senses, she says, “This is delicious.”

“You’re welcome,” I tell her, and she continues to eat as we walk.

It’s nearing sunset and without telling her, I cross us back through time, to Terra.

“You’ve done it again,” she says, taking in her surroundings. “How do you do that?”

I lift a shoulder.

“Did you really make all of this?”

“Yes,” I say, “and I made Terra for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted to. This is what I do.”

Starr’s mouth pulls to the side. I have a feeling she’s never going to be satisfied with my answers.

“Sometimes things just are. There’s no explanation for them,” I say. “Like me; I just am.”

“And like me?”

I shake my head. “You’re different. I created you.”

Why did you create me?”

“Because I want to share what I make with someone. I don’t want to be alone here.”

“And what makes you think I wanted to be created in the first place?”

I straighten my back. Why is she questioning life?

“Because life is a gift,” I say, “and life is good.”

“For you, maybe. Not for me.”

My inner voice gasps.

“Why is life not good for you?” I ask with narrowed eyes.

“Because I have no other choice but to be here with you.”

My heart sinks deep into my chest, and it’s both a physical and an emotional wound that opens there. Doesn’t she like me at all? I can easily remove the mental block I have against her and find out, but I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to invade her thoughts. Besides, I’m still terrified of her. Who knows what’s in that head of hers?

*DAY 85 *

In Caelum, I’ve constructed two thrones. Mine is made of twigs and clay because it reminds me of Terra. Starr’s is made of pure gold because it matches her eyes and skin. Her hair is dark, and it contrasts like night against the pale metal. She looks like a small queen when she sits on her throne. Her feet don’t dangle much above the ground like they did before. She’s grown taller. In my head, I search through images of young girls as they age until I find images of some that look like Starr.

“What’s happening to her?” I ask the Voice of Reason without speaking.

Adolescence. Soon, she will be a young woman, my inner voice says, _and you are becoming a young man. _

Then Starr pulls me out of my reverie.

“Stop that,” she says, fiddling with a cloth doll she’s made out of one of the dresses I created for her. She’s tossed the leftover shreds at her feet.

“Stop what?”

“Stop looking at me. Haven’t you anything to do? Go make a new fish or something.”

“Fish?”

“Yes, fish,” she says, sewing on shreds of cloth to form the doll’s hair. “They swim in water and stink, but they taste good.”

I grin at her explanation, but she doesn’t smile back. She never smiles. She hasn’t laughed since the day I set her free. I can’t make her happy. Maybe I’m not meant to have a wife.

I feel that I need reassurance, so I attempt to see into the future to make sure that Starr is with me, but I stop myself. I’m afraid of what I’ll see. Instead, I go in search of a quiet spot to distract myself from thinking about her.

On Terra, I sit on the water, feeling the current pull me deeper into the ocean. I don’t need a boat, a raft, or any other vessel to carry me because my body is my vessel. I create more fish as Starr suggested and spend the night floating at sea, watching the night sky twinkle. I sleep for the first time ever, and I’m aware of every microscopic chip of the universe… of all that I’ve made. I am everywhere at once, in every time period, and in everyone… including Starr.

I’m glad he’s not come back to Caelum tonight. He’s always here, staring at me like an idiot. What’s he looking at, anyway? I look exactly the same every single day. I wonder if other boys are like him.

Hmm… other boys. Maybe, if I ask, he’ll make me a husband. But then, my husband might be like him. Forget it.

My life is so dull. I don’t do anything. I have no purpose. Why do I even exist? At least I’m not frozen or tied up. The food is good—I’ll give him that. The time periods and places Deus takes me to are interesting, but most of the time, I don’t understand what’s happening.

However, I do have to complain about the clothes he makes me wear. All of it is lined with golden hems and makes me itch. Most of the time, I want to get rid of them. But a few days ago, when I took them off, something strange happened to him below his waist and he hid it from me. He turned red, and then he vanished, like he always does. I didn’t even notice when my clothes reappeared on me again.

“Keep your dress on,” he said when he came back. “You mustn’t take it off again or… or I’ll freeze you.”

But what if I get hot? It’s hot on Terra, and sometimes, the river water I bathe in is just as warm as the sun. I wish I were free to do as I wish. I feel enslaved in the clouds. I don’t want to be here. I didn’t ask to be created.

I wonder how long I’m supposed to live. The animals on Terra die all the time. I’ve seen an elderly man die in a hospital once, but that was in the future. Deus tells me that death is sad because a life is lost on Terra and the family grieves for the dead. I have no family, so I don’t have to worry about that. It won’t matter if I die. At least I won’t have to be here.

I stand, stretch, and look at my doll. She’s my only friend, but she’s not alive. I wish I had a living friend… or two. They would be fun. They would be girls like me. Maybe they could answer my questions about this horrible menstruation cycle that Deus won’t talk about. Everything embarrasses him. It’s frustrating.

I sigh. I turn to look at our empty thrones. I don’t understand why his is made of clay and mine is gold. Mine is clean and very pretty. His is dirty and looks like a bird’s nest. He’s such a strange being.

“That can’t be…” I say, looking at the small object that’s appeared on my throne. “It is! Oh heavens, I love candy!” I unwrap it and pop it in my mouth. Sugar and sweets are probably the best things Deus has ever created. I believe they’re a blessing.

“You should be alive, rag doll,” I say. “You don’t know how delicious candy is. You would love it.”

I twirl around with my doll, and I laugh because everything is spinning and it feels funny in my belly.

“I wish we could fly,” I say to my doll. “We could fly like birds on Terra and visit all the waterfalls and the mountains without any help. We’d be free. Free like birds.”

I sit on the floor and stare at my doll. I adjust her dress and settle her hair.

“But we’re not birds,” I tell her. “We’re stuck here, in this life.” I look around the palace Deus has built. “In this prison.”

I set my doll on the floor next to me and lie down. If I sleep, it’s like life shuts off. It’s like I’m not here. Darkness is all there is. I wish there was more to sleeping. I close my eyes, and slowly, I drift away.

DAY 86

The sun makes me blink as I wake on the beach on Terra. A sea bird is pecking at my fingers. I think about seeds and a small pile forms in the palm of my hand. I throw them in the air, and the bird chases after them.

I look at the waves dancing to and from the shore. The ocean is usually soothing to me, but not today. I’ve broken into Starr’s thoughts, and I’ve heard her think. As I was afraid, she’s unhappy, which in turn, makes me miserable. I know what she wants, but I can’t simply toss her life away. I created her for a purpose, and I want to meet it… more now, than ever. Perhaps if I give her time away from me, she won’t feel like she does now. The thing is that I don’t want to be away from her. Maybe, in time, she’ll like me—maybe.

I sigh inwardly.

I have the power to change her mind, my inner voice says.

“Yes, but I don’t want that. I want her to think for herself, to be her own person, and exercise her will. It wouldn’t be right,” I say.

Very good. Lesson two is learned, says the Voice of Reason. A person’s feelings should never be manipulated.

Though I’m glad to be learning these principles, those words spoken by my inner self don’t make me feel any better. I throw a seashell into the waves with such fury that it raises waves. I know that I have to return to Caelum with Starr. My stomach tenses, and I don’t want to go. I feel like I’ve failed, and I believe that she could be right about the things she thinks. I really should consider making her a new husband, because now, I know that she’ll never see me as anything less than a tyrant.

At the palace in Caelum, I find Starr at the foot of our thrones, sleeping. At least she’s fully clothed today. As of recent, she has a tendency of stripping herself of everything when she sleeps. It makes me uncomfortable, but it doesn’t faze her. She’s too innocent to understand most things. It’s as if she’s so much younger than she appears to be. I know she needs to mature, but I can’t give her maturity; it never comes without experience.

I set a gold platter with fruits and nuts on her throne and add a single candy on top. When I turn, she’s sitting with messy hair and a sleepy face, watching me.

“Can I have the candy before the fruit?” she asks.

“You can do whatever you like.”

Starr takes the candy and unwraps it. She puts it in her mouth and picks up her doll.

“I don’t have a name for her,” she says, more to herself than to me.

“Why don’t you name her Candy?” I suggest. “You like candy enough.”

Starr turns in my direction, and for the first time, she smiles at me. “I love candy.” She looks at the doll, again. “Your name is Candy, and I love you.”

I’m jealous of that damned doll, and I wish I could take it from Starr and rip it to shreds, like she ripped apart the dress it’s made of. How can she love a thing as petty as a doll and not hold a single ounce of care for me? I’m her creator. I gave her life. If it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t love candy, much less know what it tastes like. I even made her more fish!

“There you go again… always staring at me,” Starr says, furrowing her brow.

“Sorry,” I say, but she ignores me and takes some berries from her fruit platter. “I want us to go somewhere today. I’d like you to see something that humans do.”

“Again? Why do you keep showing me things humans do?”

“Because I want you to learn about humanity, life, and what my role is.”

Starr wrinkles her nose. “I’m in no mood. We can go tomorrow.”

“Well, I guess there’ll be no chocolate truffles for you, then.”

“Chocolate?” Starr says, eyes wide, and I nod. “Okay, but first, we stop for chocolate, and before we come back, we stop for chocolate again.”

“I promise,” I say, reaching for her hand, but she moves it away. She’s never let me touch her. I doubt she ever will.

NEW YORK CITY—JUNE 2027

Starr’s face is smudged with chocolate and her hands look like they’ve been dipped in it. The shop owner stares at her as she continues to indulge in quite possibly the only thing I’ve seen that makes her happy.

“You’ll make yourself sick if you eat anymore,” I warn. “Anything in excess is never good.”

Starr walks to me and shows me her chocolate-dipped hands. She lifts them up to my eyes, and then slides them down my face. I look at her through a clump of chocolate hanging from my eyelashes. She wipes her hands on her clothes, and without a word, she walks out of the store.

“Thank you,” I say to the shop owner and toss him some bills over the counter.

“Take it easy, kid,” the owner says. I raise an eyebrow at the term he’s used to address me as I leave the shop.

The streets of New York City are buzzing with traffic and people, and for a moment, I think I’ve lost her in the crowds. But I remember that I can never lose anyone or anything because I feel their existence inside of me. I focus on the piece within me that’s Starr’s life, and it tells me to turn my head to the left. There she is, standing a few stores down, her nose pressed against a boutique window. She pulls away only enough to glance at me, and then puts her face back on the chocolate-stained glass.

“Why did you do that back there?” I ask.

“Because I’m tired of you staring at me all the time… telling me what to do. You never let me be.”

“That’s not true,” I say, catching my reflection in the boutique window. I raise my hand to my face and the chocolate smears disappear. “I let you do whatever you want.”

She looks away from the window, but not at me. Her face is covered in chocolate smears, her hair in knots. She looks like the homeless person looking up at her from the floor.

“Can we take one of those to Caelum?” she asks, looking at something in the distance.

“One of what?”

Starr points in the direction of what she’s referring to.

“You want a hot dog cart?” I ask, and she nods. “I can’t take it from here because it may upset the balance of time, but I can create one for you there.”

“Okay,” she says and steps to the corner; I walk behind her. “What’s that?”

“It’s a church. That’s where we’re going today.”

Starr steps into the street and into oncoming traffic. Cars honk at her, and I quickly pull her back to the sidewalk.

“You can’t just walk across. You have to wait for the pedestrian light, before you can cross,” I say.

“Why?”

“Because you could cause an accident and people might get hurt—possibly die.”

“Would I die, too?”

I remain silent.

“Would I?” she asks again, and I shake my head. “Why not?”

“You and I can’t die,” I say after a moment. “I’m eternal, and I fashioned you in the same way.”

Starr’s lips press into a straight line, and as soon as the silhouette on the cross light blinks green, she walks to the other side. I follow.

I wish I knew what she was thinking, and for a moment, I consider bringing down the mental block I’ve placed against her. I decide to take a quick peek, but there’s a lot of yelling going on inside her head, and I raise the block again. I’d rather imagine the horrible things she’s thinking than actually hear them.

“Well, we’re here,” she says with crossed arms. “What are you going to show me?”

“Just a moment,” I tell her, and I push us forward an hour. In the shift of time, I take the opportunity to clean her face, settle her hair, and change her clothes. Starr doesn’t notice. “Over there,” I say.

Starr follows the direction of my stare. She watches as a car drives up to the church, and a young man steps out. The car leaves, and the young man is greeted by people at the church entrance. They pat him on the back, and together, they walk into the building.

“There’s more.” I point at another car.

A black limousine pulls up to the curb and out walks the driver. He circles the car and opens the back door. A young woman in a long, white dress steps out of the car. She has a bouquet of pink flowers in her hand and gems in her blonde hair.

“I want a dress like that one,” Starr tells me. “She looks just lovely in it.”

“Those types of dresses are only worn on a special occasion. They’re not meant to be worn daily.”

“What occasion is so special that there’s a dress only for that purpose?”

“You’ll see.”

I offer Starr my arm, but she’s hesitant to take it. She stares at the guests walking through the church doors, the men and women arm in arm. After a moment, she slides her hand through the crook of my arm, and we walk into the church. I feel nervous being this close to her. The material of my jacket’s sleeve is thick, but even with that barrier, I can feel her warmth through it. It feels nice to be touched by another person—especially by Starr.

“This is the red dress from the store window,” she says, smoothing out the skirt as we sit on the wooden bench. “It’s the one I was looking at. I like it very much.” Then she turns to look at me. “Thank you.” This is the first time Starr has ever thanked me for anything, and I tremble a little with enthusiasm. I look down at her dirty feet and create some shoes for her, as well.

The ceremony begins, and Starr pays close attention to the words being spoken by the man conducting it.

“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate,” the man says.

Starr slowly turns to me. “What exactly has been joined?”

“The man and woman, in marriage. It’s symbolic,” I say, and she gives me a puzzled look.

“You may now kiss the bride,” says the officiator, and the groom takes his bride and kisses her as the congregation claps. Starr and I clap, as well.

“What do they do now?” Starr asks.

“They live together and form a family.”

“We live together,” Starr notes.

Does she really understand what I’m trying to teach her?

“But there’s no need for a family,” she says, and that answers my question.

“Without families, there are no future generations. There is no future,” I say.

“Yes, there is. You’ve shown me. We’re here now, aren’t we?”

I rub my forehead and sigh. My efforts have been a waste, and now, I have to figure out where to keep a stock of hot dog franks and buns in Caelum. I don’t even like hot dogs.

DAY 99

“Here,” Starr says, handing me the sixth hot dog of the day. This is hot dog number 103 for me since I created the contraption. I’ve retched about two dozen times in fourteen days.

“These are almost as good as candy,” Starr says, and she takes a bite of her hot dog.

I set mine aside, and she stares at it. I don’t want to, but I pick it up, shut my eyes, and bite into it. The sausage threatens to come up, and I hold my breath. At this rate, immortal or not, Starr is going to kill me.

“I want to see princess dresses on real princesses,” Starr says.

I nod, and my stomach makes a hostile noise. Oh dear.

“I’ll be right back,” I say.

“Again? Where do you keep disappearing to?”

I don’t answer and I leap, landing on Terra behind a boulder. All 5.3 hot dogs leave my body through the opposite end they went in, and I’m in a cold sweat. I know I have to experience human-like situations so I can understand what it’s like to be a human, but this… I can’t take it anymore, and I pray that Starr will stop feeding me this wretched food.

I hear the voice in my head laughing.

“Shut up,” I say, and then think of water and a pond appears. I splash cool water on my neck and face, and I drink a handful of it. At last, my stomach settles. I lie by the pond and admire my Terra before I float back to Caelum.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA—MAY 25, 1977

“Is this place China, in the future?” Starr asks.

“No. That’s on the other side of the world. We’re in North America.”

“Then why does the sign say ‘Chinese’?”

“That’s the name of the movie theater,” I say, and Starr blinks. “A movie theater is a place where you sit and watch plays—like the ones we’ve seen in Rome; only, the play is called a movie and the people in the movie aren’t really here.”

“How can you watch a play without people?”

“You’ll see,” I say, and I produce two tickets from my pants pocket. Starr is wearing a dress she tore at the hems. She doesn’t like it when I change her clothes. This time, however, she blends in well with the peculiar-looking people here.

I thought Starr had enjoyed the overcrowded film premier as much as I did, but when we arrive in Caelum, she complains about the clothes the princess in the movie wore.

“That wasn’t a real princess, and I said I wanted to see princess dresses.” She frowns. But in spite of her dislike for the actress’s wardrobe, the next day, Starr wears her hair in large buns like Princess Leia from Star Wars.

DAY 183

Six months have passed since our genesis—the universe’s, Starr’s, and mine. At the top of the tallest mountain, near a waterfall, I’ve built a palace on Terra. Starr and I have spent only a couple of weeks here. She’s taken a fondness to it and tells me what she wants it to look like. I provide her with the things she requests. She gloats as she sees how she’s piecing her new home together.

A few weeks ago, before coming to Terra, I noticed that Starr began to look older, more mature… and fuller. I believe I’m different also. I’m not the person I was at the beginning, and I am no longer a boy. My body has grown, and Starr’s body has definitely grown in some places. I know I stare at her too much, but now, it’s not because I’m wondering what she’s thinking; it’s because I’m awfully aware of what she looks like.

The things we’ve learned by visiting the future together have made us both mature. The more we see, the more we age. When we visit future Earth, I show Starr both wonderful things and not-so-wonderful things, like wars and famine. But unlike before, when she didn’t take notice of anything, now she cries when she sees the unpleasant times the future holds, and I feel horrible for showing her. But the Voice of Reason says it’s the only way to educate us, and I let it be.

For a while, I was worried, but contrary to my initial belief, Starr is very bright. She’s learned to use her hands to craft things and to sew extremely well. She makes her own dresses now, and I provide her with the fabric, needles, and thread. For days, she’s been trying her hand at spinning wool with a small contraption called a spindle that we saw on one of our visits to the future. She asked me to create it for her here, but instead of making the object appear out of thin air, I made it for her using wood from one of the fallen forest trees. Maybe someday, she’ll make a garment for me using the strings she spins, but I’d be happier and much relieved if first, she’d make herself a bra.

“I’m going to gather fruit, and I’d like to hunt,” I say, forcing my eyes off her chest. “Do you want to come with me?”

“Hunt… the animals?” Starr asks. “Why would you want to do that?”

“Because meat is necessary for nutrition, and I think we should have more selection in our meals.”

“What’s wrong with fish and hotdogs?”

“Hotdogs,” I can barely say the word anymore without gagging, “are made of meat.” Somewhat, anyway. “You like those enough. And you liked the roasted birds you tasted in the small African village we visited, didn’t you? Besides, having fish every day is starting to get old.”

Sitting on her throne, Starr sets the spindle on her lap. “But you’ll have an advantage with your wings. I don’t think that’s fair to the animals since you’re so much faster than they are.”

“I won’t use my wings. I’ll hunt on foot.”

“Deus…” she says, and it surprises me to hear Starr—or anyone—say my name for the first time.

“Yes?”

“Will I ever have wings?”

“Is that something you’d like?” I already know the answer.

Starr nods.

“Soon, then. I promise,” I say, rubbing her knuckles with my thumb. Starr stares at my hand on hers, and I quickly pull mine away.

***

“No, no! Not the rabbit!” Starr screams.

“We’ve been out here for ages, and you haven’t let me hunt,” I say, throwing my newly carved spear on the ground before sitting under a peach tree. “It’s almost sundown, you know? The animals will settle in for the night soon.”

“What about the black birds up in this tree?” She points. “I don’t think I’d mind you killing those.”

“You want to eat crows for dinner?”

“They’ll do,” she says.

“Crows?” I ask again, and she nods. “Crows it is, then.” I sigh.

I take the spear, and I aim, sending it flying through the air. I hit two birds and the rest scatter. The spear comes tumbling down the tree branches with my first kill.

“Now what?” Starr asks, lifting a dead bird’s wing.

“We cook them.”

***

I’ve de-feathered the birds. They don’t look like they have much meat on them, but three bites of this is better than hotdogs. I pile a few logs in a pit in the center of the throne room. With a wave of my hand, I light a fire. Unimpressed, Starr watches the wood crackle.

“Do you know that you can do that, too? Light a fire, I mean,” I tell Starr.

“Really?”

“I didn’t make you helpless. I told you I fashioned you after me… well, as much as I could.” I poke the fire with my spear. “Why don’t you try?”

“I don’t think I know how.”

“It’s easy. Think about fire and push your intention toward the object.” I snap a twig off a log and hold it up. “Try on this.”

Starr stares at the twig for a moment, and I can tell she’s concentrating, but nothing happens. She purses her lips and glares at me.

“Are you trying to fool me?” she asks.

“When have I ever?” I move closer to her, holding the small stick between my fingers. “Try again.”

Starr stares at the twig, and her eyes narrow. After a moment, a fine line of gray smoke rises from the top of the twig.

“That was good. With practice, you’ll get it in no time,” I tell her.

“It makes me dizzy.” She sits next to the fire with a hand on her forehead. “Why didn’t you tell me I was able to do this before?”

How do I tell her I was afraid she’d try to incinerate me along with the entire universe? “I thought you needed time to get settled into life, first.”

“That does take some getting used to,” Starr says with a nod. “What else can I do?”

“You’re much stronger and faster than humans. So am I. And if you focus hard enough, you can feel another living creature’s emotional and physical states. You can also heal them.”

“Can I create life, like you?”

“No. I tried to give you that, but it didn’t work.”

“There’s nothing really special about me, then. You can do everything and more.”

I squeeze her hand and, despite the frown on her brow, I don’t let go. “But you can do something I can’t do. It’s like a miracle. I’ve seen it,” I say, and she looks at me questioningly. “You can bear children.”

“You can do that, too.”

“No, I can’t. Creation isn’t the same. A child is a part of you—a part of your blood, of your body, of who you are. It’s the joining of two souls to create one. I couldn’t do that with you.

“I took two pieces of skin from my body and molded them. Only, I didn’t want you to be my child. I wanted you to be like me. You were meant to be my… companion.”

“Like a sister?” Starr asks.

Has she really not figured it out? I look at the threads of gold in her irises. My sight follows the trace of her nose and lands on her mouth. Her lips look soft and sweet, and I do something that I’ve seen done in the future. I close the gap between us and chastely kiss her. Pulling away from her, I feel my cheeks warm. Starr’s are flushed, as well.

For a long time, we sit and stare at the fire, neither of us speaking. I place the two birds over the pit and watch them cook. All the while, I wonder if Starr is upset.

“Starr,” I finally say, as I continue staring at the flames, “was it wrong of me to do that?”

“You were the one that wanted to eat something different for dinner. If you feel guilty about it, don’t hunt anymore.”

“I wasn’t referring to the crows. I meant, was it wrong to kiss you?”

Without looking at me, Starr rotates the end of the stick the birds are roasting on. She takes a while before she answers. “I’m not sure.”

What does that even mean? There are only two possible ways to answer that question. Why can’t she just say yes or no? Or is this her way of telling me that she hates me, and I should never do it again? Maybe she finds me revolting. I do seem to make her angry a lot. Is this why men in future Earth are so afraid of their women—because men don’t understand them? I open my mouth to speak, but Starr speaks before I can.

“Do it again,” she says.

What?

“If you don’t want to, then—”

“Y-yes,” I say before she’s done speaking. “I do. I want to.”

Starr stares at me expectantly, but I can’t do this with her looking at me.

“Close your eyes,” I say, and after a moment, she does.

I look at her golden skin and dark, silky hair. The young woman that Starr has turned into is very beautiful. She’s not the beastly little girl that attacked me in the field months ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another like her. My heart beats faster as I move forward, and my nose nestles next to hers. Carefully, I take her lips in mine. Starr’s mouth parts, and she returns my kiss. Suddenly, all I want is to taste more of her. I deepen the kiss, and Starr gasps. My skin is so hot that I feel like I could unintentionally erupt a thousand volcanoes at once. A minute later, Starr unlocks her lips from mine. My chest rises and falls just as fast as hers does. I want to kiss her for a second time, but she turns away to stare at the fire before I summon the courage to do it.

“I don’t think we should do that again,” she tells me.

“Why?” I ask. “Didn’t you like it?”

“It’s not that,” she says, twirling a strand of hair between her fingers. She turns to look at me. “Did you like it?”

I nod. She says nothing else.

After we eat the roasted birds and have a few pieces of fruit, Starr tells me she’s tired. She says goodnight as she walks to her room. A few months ago, when I noticed the growth spurt we were both having, Starr insisted that bedrooms were necessary for privacy, so I created two—one for each of us. Unlike me, she requires sleep every night. Many of those nights, I wish that she would knock on my door and sleep in my room so that I can watch her. She never does.

While Starr sleeps, I busy myself by looking at the progress of the numerous animal species and galaxies I’ve created. Occasionally, I step into the future for a short while and watch a black-and-white film or a live taping of I Love Lucy. They’ve become my favorite.

DAY 184

In the morning, as I’m staring at the sunrise through my bedroom window, the door swings open and Starr runs in, wrapped in a bed sheet. She hugs me.

“Thank you,” she says, and then pulls away and twirls around with a wide smile. “How do I look?”

“Like an angel,” I tell her, glancing at her bare shoulders.

“What’s an angel?”

“It has to do with religion and beliefs. I’ll explain later.”

Starr touches her new wings and flaps them a little. “Will you teach me to use them?”

“After you’ve eaten breakfast. It’ll take a lot of energy in the beginning. Your body needs to adapt, and it may take a few days.”

“I’ll get dressed, then,” she says and quickly spins on her heel, losing two feathers to the brisk turn as she walks away.

I pick up one of the feathers and sweep it across my cheek. Finally, something I’ve done has made Starr happy. I place the feather under my pillow for safekeeping and walk to the throne room.

“Deus!” I hear Starr’s voice echoing through the halls. She appears at one of the entrances still wrapped in her bed sheet. “I don’t have anything to wear. My clothes aren’t fit for wings, and I can’t alter them right now. I’m too eager to learn to fly. Will you create my clothes for me, today… please?”

“Do you have a design in mind?”

“It needs to be shorter than what I usually wear. I don’t want to get caught in the trees.”

“Okay,” I say, and I clothe her in a white dress that falls below the knee and add a gold rope around her waist.

“It won’t do. Can you make it shorter?”

“Shorter? How short?”

“Here,” she says, pointing to her mid-thigh.

“Th-that may be a bit much, don’t you think?”

“I think it would be perfect. And can you make the top of the dress with only straps here,” she says, touching her shoulders.

I do as she asks, and as I look at her draped in the small piece of fabric, I hope that this is the only time she wears this dress. I can’t take my eyes off her, and I remember the softness and sweetness of her lips. The longing to hold her and kiss her grows every day. I wish she felt the same.

“Do you like it?” she asks. She’s never asked for my opinion before.

“You look…” I nod. I can’t come up with the right word to describe her. I create a large mirror on the wall, and she walks to it.

“Oh, it’s gorgeous! I’m going to make several more dresses in this design once I learn to fly.”

Wonderful. Sometimes I wonder if she does and says this sort of thing on purpose. Unconsciously, my eyes shift to her chest, then down to her curved hips and bare legs. I force myself to close my eyes and look away. When Starr begins to eat her breakfast, I create a cloth tube around her thorax. I pray that she won’t notice.

“I’m going to pull my hair up in a braid before we leave,” Starr tells me. “I’ll be a few minutes.”

“I’ll be here,” I say, and Starr prances out of the throne room. I sit and wait.

I step into my room and quickly wedge a chair against the knob, in case Deus decides to walk in without knocking. He never does, but if he found out that I’ve been bringing things from the future to Terra present, he’d have a fit. It’s a good thing I carry a handbag or wear big, fluffy dresses in most places in future Earth to blend in with the eras that we visit. I find it amazing how much I can fit into them without being caught.

From under my mattress, I pull out the book I’m currently reading. This particular novel is written by one of my favorite romance writers, Sara Humphreys. I skim through the pages and read over a section that’s especially interesting to me. In this twenty-first century paranormal love story, a man kisses a woman with all the fiery passion of the sun, and then they have all the sex. I don’t know what having all the sex feels like, and quite honestly, I don’t know if I want to find out because it brings a lot of complications in all the stories I read. But what I do know is that according to this book, Deus’ kiss felt just as passionate as the lead female character describes. I giggle at the memory of Deus’ face when he asked me if I had liked the kiss, and I told him I wasn’t sure. I swear, sometimes, he’s dumb as a rock. I also told Deus I didn’t want him to kiss me again, but that was a lie, as well.

Some of my books mention that women should play hard to get, and that’s what I intend to do. I’m not very pretty compared to the glamorous movie actresses in the future that wear makeup and heels, but I think I’m worth at least a battle or two.

I slide the book under the mattress as far as my arm can reach, where I’m sure Deus will never find it. My wings flap a bit when I pull my arm out, and the movement startles me. I’m not used to having wings, yet. As I see a few feathers dancing in the air, I remember that Deus called me an angel. It’s quite ridiculous that he really thinks I don’t know what an angel is. A lot of the time, I act like I don’t know things, but I do it to make him talk. He keeps to himself, and I often wonder what he’s thinking. But when he does talk to me, I can see the clouds, the sky, and the stars in the irises of his eyes, and that’s when I know he really is the Creator, as he claims. I once read that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and in Deus’ eyes, I can see the entire universe. I don’t think they meant it to be so literal, however.

I don’t understand why Deus doesn’t try to woo me like the men in my books, and yet, he likes to look at me—a lot. Sometimes, when he’s not looking, I steal a few glances of him, as well. He reminds me of the men pictured on the covers of the romance books I “borrow” from the future—tone and muscular. Deus has grown to be a very tall man… and handsome, too. His sandy blond hair is all that remains of the boy he once was.

I find it ironic that when we were children, he annoyed the hell out of me, but now, I can’t understand why I want his attention. The problem is, he’s so shy that I don’t know if I can be with a man like him forever—not that I have much of a choice with him being the only one in existence and whatnot. Still, he provides everything I need, and I’m never left wanting anything… except for feminine napkins and toilet paper, which I also borrow from the future and keep hidden. Nonetheless, Deus is a good man.

I stare into the mirror and begin to braid my hair. For some reason, I feel constrained in this dress. I make a mental note to make the dresses in this design a bit loose around the chest when I get around to sewing them together.

When I finish doing my hair, I dab on another layer of deodorant and stick it back in the vase where I hide my razors, toothbrush, and other toiletries. Hygiene is essential; I had to learn that on my own. I take the violent-scented water I’ve made off my vanity and sprinkle a bit over my hair and dress. With a final look in the mirror and a pinch on both cheeks, I’m ready for my first flying lesson. I pop a mint in my mouth before I leave the room.

As of recent, the amount of time Starr takes to fix her hair has tripled. At times, I want to see into her room, take down the mental block, and see what could possibly take so long. But I don’t because I respect her privacy—and heaven forbid I see more than I should. I put my hands behind my head, lie on the steps that lead up to our thrones, and wait. Then, I wait some more. Until finally…

“Ready,” Starr says, looking down at me.

“Why does it take you so long to fix your hair?” I ask.

“I had other things to take care of.”

“Like what? You’re already dressed.”

“Things,” she says, cocking her brow.

“Right,” I say, sitting up. “Let’s begin, then.”

We go to the open field where Starr pounced on me when we were children. For a long time, Starr runs and flaps her wings around the field, imitating me. On a few occasions, she manages to hover over the ground, but just for mere seconds.

“Am I doing something wrong?” she asks with a creased brow. “Why can’t I lift up off the ground?”

“Here,” I say, kneeling with my back to her and extending my arms. “Place your arms over mine, and I’ll show you what rhythm your wings should follow. As I move our arms, you follow the movement with your wings.”

“Okay,” Starr says.

It isn’t until her body brushes against mine, and her breath tickles my ear, that I realize what a bad idea this is. I manage to maintain my calm and begin to move our arms. The breeze that Starr’s wings create fans me, and then, for a split second, I think I feel something soft and wet graze my neck. I still. My imagination, I suppose.

“It’s like gentle waves,” Starr says, and I nod.

“Do you think you can do it on your own?”

“Possibly,” she says, and then pulls her body away from mine.

When Starr’s heart is no longer beating on my back, I feel, in a way, deprived, but at the same time, relieved. I don’t understand these contradicting emotions, and I wish they would stop. They’re like chains that restrain me, pulling me only where she goes.

When I turn to see Starr, she’s gone. Over the grass, a winged shadow moves across the field, and the gray silhouette is almost over me when I raise my sight up to the sky. Starr comes tumbling down on top of me, and as we fall to the ground, I hear a snap. I quickly sit up and look at Starr, afraid she may be hurt.

“Are you alright?” I ask.

Starr’s face is as pale as the moon. “D-don’t move,” she tells me, looking at my arm.

I lower my vision to find what’s causing the horror in her eyes, and for a moment, I don’t understand what I’m seeing. A stick? No, it’s a bone. Suddenly, I feel like a blazing skewer is being screwed out of my arm, and I fall back, gritting my teeth. How can humans withstand this type of pain?

“I told you not to move!” Starr says, clutching her hands over her mouth. “I don’t know how to heal you. What should I do? Tell me what to do!”

“I can fix it. Just… just let me focus,” I say.

No, the Voice of Reason says in my head. In order to understand pain and suffering, one must experience both. There must be no healing on this occasion.

But it’s pierced right through the skin, I argue mutely with my inner self. I receive no answer.

“Why aren’t you healing?” Starr asks.

“Because I can’t do it this time.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I just can’t.” I try to sit up.

“No! Don’t move,” Starr says, raising her hand. “And don’t panic. I think that… yes, yes… I know what to do.”

“What?” I ask.

“First, we need to get you back to the palace. Then, I operate.”

“Starr…”

“Yes?” She kneels next to me.

“I’m panicking.”

Getting back to the palace is complicated. I can’t walk through the forest with a bone sticking out of my mangled arm with all the wild animals at large in the forest. Surely I’d be attacked at their first whiff of my blood. I try several times to reach out to the throne room and transport us there, but the pain won’t let me focus long enough to accomplish it.

“Wait here,” Starr says, “and don’t move.”

She walks into the forest and I wait… as is customary. A few minutes later, she comes back with her hands cupped together.

“What is that you’re holding?” I ask.

“Something to help you. Open your mouth.”

“Show me what it is.”

“Don’t you trust me?”

“I do, but I—” Before I’m done talking, Starr shoves a soft substance that tastes like earth into my mouth.

“Chew it,” she says.

Starr continues to feed me more of the earthy matter, being careful not to let me see it. She sits beside me and watches me. After a while, Starr starts to take a disturbing and odd shape. Her head grows five times the size it was before, and four-foot tentacles replace her arms. Sparks of color explode around her when she moves.

“What’s happening to you?” I ask, reaching out to touch her huge head. She laughs, and it sounds like a neighing horse. “Did I do this to you? I’m so very sorry.”

“Deus, you need to focus. You have to take us home. Can you do that?”

I shake my head, and the world begins to spin. I don’t know how, but now, I’m trapped in the eye of a tornado made up of millions of faces that belong to Starr: happy Starr, mad Starr, smiling Starr, sleeping Starr, chocolate-covered Starr, Starr’s head in a hotdog bun…

The tornado stops abruptly, and Starr’s big head and small body are hovering over me.

“Deus,” she says, wrapping one of her tentacles over my face, “take us home.”

“You have pretty eyes,” I tell her. “Your big-headed octopus babies will be stunning.”

“What?” Starr neighs again. “Take us home, Deus. You can do it. Does your arm hurt?”

“I don’t think I have arms… or legs. Do I?”

“Listen to me,” she says, wrapping two tentacles around my head. “Focus, think of the palace, and take us there.”

“The palace. Our palace? I’ve been there many times. I know where that is.”

“You do, don’t you? Now, be a good boy and take us there.”

“I would, but I don’t think I can drive in this condition. Why don’t you drive, instead?”

“We don’t have a car,” Starr says, rubbing her gigantic forehead with one octopus limb. “Can you please focus and take us back like you always do? If you do this, I can make you feel better.”

“Ooo… I’d love to feel better,” I say, and with that, Starr’s bed appears before us. “Lucy, I’m home,” I say, and I drop to the floor.

Starr pulls me up and drags me in the direction of the bed. She helps me lie down, and then bustles about in the room, pulling objects out of every corner.

“Open your mouth,” she tells me, and I do as she says. She puts two tiny objects in my mouth. I chew them. They taste horrible, and I spit them out. “No! You mustn’t do that again! I don’t have very many left.” Again, she pushes two small pieces through my lips and pours water into my mouth. Then Starr tells me, “Swallow, don’t chew.”

“What are they?” I ask.

“None of your concern. Now, for this next part, you’ll have to hold very, very still. Do you understand?”

I nod, and the room begins to bounce around me. It makes me laugh. Just then, Starr reaches behind her back and her hand brings back a dagger. I gasp.

“Where did you get that?” I ask, but Starr doesn’t answer. Instead, she takes the belt off her waist and ties it right below the bone that’s sticking out of my arm. I had completely forgotten about that pesky bone. She holds up a book with a half-naked soldier and a busty woman on the cover. Odd. I don’t remember creating that. She reads for a moment, and then sets the book down. “Deus, take a deep breath. This may sting a little,” she says. Before I can react, Starr slices the flesh on my arm.

“Aaaaaahhh!” I cry at the top of my lungs, and the world turns black around me.

***

My body feels like it’s on fire, and whatever I’m lying on is wet. Experiencing two temperatures at once makes me shiver.

“Deus?” I hear Starr call my name. I try to focus on her face, but the blackness pulls me back and consumes me.

DAY 188

The sweet and powdery essence of violets tickles my nose. I open my eyes, and the copper glow of candlelight greets me. Starr is curled up in a ball by my side, her cheek resting on my left arm. My right arm is wrapped in sticks and cloth and secured against my body—to keep it immobile, I presume. I remain still for fear of reviving the pain, but more so because I don’t want to wake Starr. I watch her sleep for a long time, admiring her delicate features—small, turned-up nose, cheeks sprinkled with freckles, heart-shaped lips. I breathe in her scent, and it sends calming waves through me. Tilting my head to the side, I kiss Starr’s hair, and then rest my cheek on her head. I stare out the window at the crescent moon, and upon it, I wish I could remain this way forever… this close to Starr. My body feels weak, and I close my eyes, letting sleep seize me once more.

DAY 189

I try to roll on my side, but the movement sends a sharp pain surging through my arm. My eyes blink open, and I’m still in Starr’s room. Books are scattered all over the floor, along with items I can’t recall creating. I glance around and notice a glass and pitcher of water on the nightstand next to me. Suddenly, I’m awfully parched, and I couldn’t care less where the pitcher came from. In order to reach the water, I have to sit up, and that’ll be painful, but my dehydrated body is urging me to take a drink. With my good arm, I pull the bed sheets off, but then quickly bring them back over me. What happened to my clothes?

I hear footsteps approaching, and I wait for Starr to enter the room.

“You’re awake.” Starr’s eyes widen. She’s holding a platter with meat and fruit in her hands. “Are you hungry?”

I nod. “And very thirsty.”

Starr kicks aside some books to clear her path and sets the platter on the dresser. She steps to the bed, handing me a glass of water.

“Are you still in a lot of pain?” she asks, pulling something out of the many bags she’s made.

“Only when I move.”

“You can take these if it gets worse,” she says, showing me two white pills. “They’re very popular in future Earth.”

I read the name on the pills and shake my head at her.

“Those are for women—for dysmenorrhea. I can’t take those,” I say, and then I wonder if she’s already given me any. “Where did you get all of these things?”

“The fruit I gathered, the meat I hunted for with your bow and arrow. But if you’re referring to the books and such, I borrowed them,” she says. “It’s a good thing I did, too. I don’t know what I would’ve done with you if I didn’t have them to guide me along.” Starr brings the food tray to the bed and rips off a small piece of the roast. She raises it to my lips, and I eat.

“Thank you,” I say, and she offers me another small portion of meat.

“You had a horrible fever for days, and I had to bathe you with cool water to bring it down,” she says. I blush at the thought of her having seen me nude. “It took some doing, but I managed to fly up to the mountains, and I brought back a bucket of snow. One book said that’s what should be done to cure a fever, so I followed its advice. Another said I should give you antibiotics, but I didn’t have any, so I went to the forest and gathered some herbs. I don’t know how I knew which ones to pick, which I found rather strange, but I picked the right ones and with them, I made an elixir and gave it to you. You told me it tasted like piss.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t remember that,” I say.

“You also talked a lot in your sleep. A very whole lot.”

I swallow the meat in my mouth without chewing. “W-what did I say?”

“Nothing coherent,” she says, and I exhale with relief.

“Thank you for nursing me all this time. I hope I haven’t troubled you much.”

Starr looks at me and bites into a pear. “You should trouble me more.”

I narrow my eyes, attempting to understand what she’s trying to say, but she jumps off the bed and brings back a hand mirror. What else has she stolen from the future?

“I’ve cut your hair,” Starr says. “It looks better this way.”

“What else did you do to me while I was unconscious?”

Starr cocks her brow, and then puts a handful of berries in her mouth. I know she does it on purpose so she doesn’t have to answer.

DAY 192

It’s been two days since I settled into my own room. I miss the scent of violets lingering in the air, and though it was only on one occasion when I woke that Starr was cuddled against me, I miss that moment as well.

Starr has become very self-sufficient and has taught herself to hunt, gather, and fly. The medicinal concoctions she makes with the herbs she gathers help me heal, but they do taste sickening. The newest one she’s prepared helps with the discomfort I feel in my arm. I feel very proud of the abilities she’s discovering.

The stiches Starr made on the incision itch, but she says they have to stay to keep the wound closed—else, it could become infected again. She’s taken to nursing me to health very seriously, and she doesn’t let me step out of bed. It may be selfish on my part, but I’m enjoying the attention.

Starr walks into my room with cloth strips in one hand and a pitcher of water in the other. “I have to clean the incision and change the dressing again.”

I sit up and rest my back against the headboard. Starr begins her treatment. I watch as her hands wipe away the dried blood and clear fluid. She glances up at me and apologizes when I flinch.

“I don’t know how long it will be before you heal,” she says. “Do you?”

I focus on the future and see myself healed enough to use my arm. I take note of the time frame. “Six weeks,” I say. “Healing is a slow process.”

“How did this happen? I thought you were impenetrable.”

“I am… usually. But I think this is a good learning experience. I’d never felt that type of pain before. Now I know how it feels to be mortal.”

“You should make humans more resistant,” Starr advises. “Can’t have them breaking like this all the time.”

“I’ll try,” I say.

“Good.”

***

Night comes, and I’m unable to sleep. I lie in bed, staring out the window at the full moon, when I hear the door to my room creak open. I close my eyes, feigning sleep. Starr sits on the bed and pulls the sheets over my chest. She shifts a little. I feel her cheek rest on my shoulder. I breathe in the essence of violets in her hair and wrap my arm around her. Starr stills, but doesn’t attempt to move away. I hold her like this all night while she sleeps.

As soon as the sun rises, Starr tiptoes out of the room. I wonder if she’ll return tonight.

DAY 212

My arm is much better, but it still hurts. Starr removed the stiches from the wound a week and a half ago. It stung when she pulled them out, but it wasn’t pain compared to a broken arm. She also sewed an arm sling for me and makes me wear it daily.

Some days, instead of me creating food out of thin air, Starr and I venture into the woods to hunt and gather. Starr hunts while I gather what little fruit I can with one hand. The fruit is growing scarce near the palace, so I attempted to fly to other places on Terra, but it made my arm ache too much. I’ve desisted from trying, for now.

We haven’t visited future Earth in weeks—since the broken-arm incident—and Starr hasn’t asked to go. I haven’t confronted her about taking things from the future, but before our next visit, I will have to. I feel uncomfortable doing it because if she hadn’t read all those books, she wouldn’t have had any idea of how to treat the broken bone. Still, stealing things is morally wrong, and she must be made aware of that.

In the past twenty days, Starr has slept in my room a total of five times. I don’t think she knows I don’t require as much sleep as she does, and I don’t plan to tell her anytime soon. Late at night, she creeps into my bed, and I let her think that I don’t hear or feel her. When she’s fallen deep into her own sleep, I hold her tightly against me. Those are the nights I find I can slumber in peace.

DAY 231

Well after midnight, Starr sneaks into my bed, but I don’t sleep. I take the sling off, and for the first time, I embrace Starr with both arms through the night. She feels so small as I hold her like this—so fragile.

It’s past noon, and Starr hasn’t woken and snuck out of bed as she usually does. I feel her chest expand and deflate against my ribs, and I fasten her closer to me. On days like this one, when she wakes up in my arms, it takes more and more self-restraint to keep from opening my eyes and asking her to stay.

Tell her, the Voice of Reason says. I pretend not to hear it.

I watch Starr as she’s in deep sleep, and I wish I had the courage to say so many things to her when she’s awake. I brush my lips on her head and breathe her in. “I love you, Starr,” I whisper into her hair.

After a while, Starr stirs in my arms, but this time, I don’t fake sleep or let her out of my embrace. Instead, I wait until she looks up at me.

“Did you sleep well?” I ask.

Starr’s cheeks bloom with warm, red hues. She opens her mouth, but before she utters one word, I fasten my lips over hers. I pull away only long enough to measure her reaction; she doesn’t protest. I kiss her neck, and then her lips—again and again—until she unlocks her mouth from mine to catch her breath. She sits up, and I believe that she’s about to walk out and I won’t have the nerve to stop her. I convince myself that I’ve made the stupidest mistake I’m capable of. Just as I’m searching my mind for an apology, Starr lifts her silk gown over her head and tosses it on the floor. I want to tell her how beautiful she is—how much I care for her; however, the words refuse to part with me. My fingers trace her pink lips, and then travel over her jaw and down the curve of her neck, stopping on her bare shoulders. This time, Starr takes my lips in hers, and the universe fades away, leaving us in the center of a warm, brilliant light. I wrap her around me, and I don’t feel the fear of rejection or loss for words anymore.

“I love you,” I say, and I love her for hours until the rosy glow of twilight floats in through the window.

***

As we lie in bed facing each other, I hold my fists out to Starr. “Pick a hand,” I tell her.

“Left,” she says, and I open it. “Is that candy? I love candy.”

“I know.”

“What’s in the other hand?” she asks. I open my fist and show her. “That’s the ring you made me when we were children. You kept it?”

“I very much wanted you to wear it then. I still do; only, I don’t think it will fit. I’ll make you another,” I say, slipping the ring on her pinky. “I’ll make a matching one for me, as well.”

“Matching ring bands… why?”

“Because it’s a symbol of union and of infinite love,” I say and kiss her hand. “I made you so that you could be my wife, and now you are.”

Starr purses her lips. Wrapping a sheet around herself, she steps out of bed.

“So that’s it, then? You knew this was going to happen, and you dragged me along all this time without telling me what your grand plan consisted of? This has all been a game of cat and mouse, hasn’t it? You’ve managed to sabotage a perfectly good thing, yet again.

“Yes, I accept that you made me, but I don’t have to drop at your feet and worship you like the rest of the world will do.

“You’re always, always trying to push things on me, telling me what I should and what I shouldn’t do—keeping me from having a choice. I have a brain, too. I’m a person, not your property… and I’m certainly never going to be your wife.” Starr turns her back to me and walks to the door.

“Starr, wait …wait… I’m sorry,” I say, stumbling out of bed and wrapping a sheet around my waist. “You do have a choice. Will you—?”

“Don’t,” she says, raising her index finger at me. “I want you to leave. Go back to Caelum. You said you created Terra for me, so that makes it mine, and I don’t want you here.”

“But…”

“But what?” she asks, raising her voice, and I blink.

“I don’t want to leave you.”

“I said go.”

My chest is tight, and I feel like the air has been sucked out of me. If this is what she wants, then I’ll do it. I won’t do anything else to make her think that her life’s been planned for my benefit. Initially, it was, but now, all I want is her happiness, even if it’s not with me… even if I feel like I’m near death at this very moment.

I take a step forward and kiss her cheek. “Goodbye,” I say. She says nothing. I turn and walk away. I close the door to my room, and I take two objects more precious to me than anything I could ever create; I want nothing else, except these pieces of Starr—her feather and the blanket she lay on with me. I reach out to Caelum, and in a blink, I am there.

I stare at the two thrones in the room, and I know it’s my fault that Starr’s is empty. A bottle of wine appears in my hand. I raise it to my lips, sit on the floor, and drink until my limbs and face go numb.

***

As I lie drunk, unfed, and unwashed for days that I don’t care to count, I think of her. I waited so long to gain her attention, only to ruin the few hours I had it. I’m a fool, and because of it, she’ll never be mine. She’ll never come home. I’m not worthy of the title I’ve given myself, much less of having her. Yes, I could create another woman, but I don’t want anyone else. No one will ever fill the empty space she’s left in me. Nothing, not even a broken bone, hurts like Starr’s absence. I drown my thoughts with wine and wrap myself in the blanket that has the faint smell of her violet essence.

DAY 335

Many weeks have passed, and Starr hasn’t floated to Caelum or I to Terra. The only reason I’m still alive is because I’m immortal. Today, I’m sober, and misery claws at my heart more merciless than ever. I can no longer stand the silence. I fear that my chest will cave from the pain, and for the first time in my existence, I cry. I press the white sheet that no longer holds Starr’s scent to my face, and I know that I can’t go on.

DAY 335

It happened just like in the stories I read. Sex complicated everything.

It’s been almost four months that I’ve been on my own, but it seems like eternity. I’m faring well, but I’m lonely and depressed, and I hate Deus for making me love him. I thought he’d be back for me by now; I guess I’m not worth his trouble. If that’s the case, I’ve made up my mind, and I won’t love him anymore. The problem is that being in love isn’t like the common cold that goes just as fast as it comes.

The day after Deus left, the sun and moon eclipsed. There was total darkness for several hours, and I worried that it might stay that way forever. Finally, the sun came out of hiding, and it was hotter than an inferno for weeks. Now, it’s been raining for days, and I’m concerned because the mudslides the heavy rains have created will soon do away with the palace, as it sits at the edge of a cliff. I’ve sought refuge on higher ground, in a cave under the waterfall, but I fear it may not be a good home.

I can’t create food like Deus, so I have to gather it almost every day. My diet consists of mostly fruits and fish because that’s what I crave the most. I do like meat, but these days, it’s been hard to hunt due to the torrents. The animals become scared and go into hiding when the thunder begins to roar. Running after them is impossible in the mud.

DAY 340

The sun didn’t rise yesterday or today. I look up to the clouds, and the glow that indicates where Caelum is located is barely visible.

I contemplate flying into the heavens to see Deus, but the rain and wind are too strong… and I’m still angry with him. Why hasn’t he come looking for me? I sit by the fire I’ve built in the cave and sew. I’ve been making more clothes to keep me warm, as there’s been a drop in the temperature and the nights are very cold, even with logs burning continuously. My stomach rumbles, and I reach for a piece of dried meat. It tastes almost as good as candy. I crave candy every day.

I had hoped the palace would withstand the inclement weather, but it didn’t. There, it was much cleaner and comfortable than living here. I was able to move a lot of the necessary things, and my new home isn’t entirely unpleasant. I found that, as Deus said, I’m strong, and I was able to carry my bed and bring it to the cave. However, I had to leave some things behind because the palace started to crumble, and I had to run out. What I miss the most is the toilet paper… and Deus.

DAY 348

I’m hungry, cold, and the sun hasn’t risen for nine days. The rain stopped falling, but it’s been replaced by snow. I’ve been crying for three days, and I can’t stop. My body is begging me to feed it, but all that’s left to eat are a few pieces of fruit.

I wipe my tears and suck in ragged breaths as I take a spear and walk out of the cave. Cold flakes fall on my face and hair, seeping into my skin in the form of iced water. For a moment, I want to return to the cave, but my stomach begins to ache from hunger, so I will myself to keep going. I need to find some meat and more wood, else I’ll starve and freeze. Being immortal makes no sense when life’s all about an eternity of suffering.

I can’t see anything in the darkness, and I trip a few times. I hear movement by the river. I raise my spear, but I don’t know in which direction to cast it. I hear a sound behind me, followed by a short growl, and quickly, I twist my neck. Two yellow eyes are peering at me, and I take a step back. The largest feline creature I have ever seen—bigger than a lion—is sitting on its hind legs with a dead animal in its mouth. I raise my spear, and the feline lowers its head, dropping the carcass on the snow. It pushes the dead animal toward me with its nose, producing a sound like a whimper. Judging by its posture, I see that the creature has no intention of attacking. It continues to push the dead animal toward me, and I wonder what it wants. I take cautious steps forward and see the corpse. It’s the same species as this feline, but much smaller.

“Is he yours?” I ask the large cat, as if it could understand me.

I recall that Deus once told me I could sense another’s feelings. I wonder if it applies to animals and decide to attempt it. Reaching out to the feline creature, I try to sense its body. As I do, I begin to feel pain in my pelvis and sorrow deep in my chest. Like a thought floating before my eyes, I see the dead creature being born in the snow from the large one. The cub is born lifeless. My heart contracts and I shiver, either from the cold or from the realization that this animal is asking me to revive its offspring.

“I can’t help you. I’m so very sorry,” I say. Just as I say the last word, the heavy snowfall stops, and the riverbank is illuminated by lightning flashes in the sky. In that instant, I see creatures scattered all around me. Another flash comes, and I see they’re all lying on the ground, dead.

“What’s happening?” I ask myself aloud. “Is this his revenge for me?”

As hard as I try not to think that it could be the case, it angers me that Deus would do such a horrible thing and let all these poor creatures freeze to death. If he thinks this will make me go chasing after him, then he’s mistaken.

“This won’t happen to you,” I say. I feel something stir inside me, and it makes me cry. I hope that all this sobbing will stop soon. I’m not productive when I cry. I walk back to the cave where I eat eight very ripe grapes. Then, I lay my head on my pillow and wrap myself in the fabrics I managed to bring from the palace. Before I sleep, I cradle my ever-growing round belly and whisper a blessing for the new life I carry inside me.

DAY 356

Something is glowing in my chest. I wouldn’t have noticed, except the fire went out while I slept, and it seemed strange that the cave was still lit. When I looked down to rub my belly and say good morning to my unborn child, I saw it. I also observed that my bosom is incredibly large. How did that happen? I thought I had already finished the puberty phase.

I step to the entrance of the cave and see that the snow has melted. The only light that exists comes from the moon and stars—no sun, no lightning. In the dim glow of the moon, I see yellow, red, and orange fruits hanging from the trees, and I gasp. I walk to my bed, and I find a bag to gather them in. As I walk, I see that more animals have died, and I swallow. Something in my gut tells me that Deus isn’t doing this as revenge.

The universe is dying, and I am fading. I thought I was immortal, but I see now that without hope or faith for a tomorrow, there is no future. My future and my forever, along with the rest of humanity’s, was Starr. Nothing will be left of all that I built or of me. I wish that I could say goodbye to her. I wish that I could spare her life, but without my life energy, it will all cease to exist.

I haven’t the strength to keep the animals alive. They have two days remaining because I’ve focused my energy on keeping the fruit trees alive for Starr; though, they too will die along with me on the 360th day. Much like a deathly ill dog, I’ve balled myself in a corner in the throne room, waiting for it to come. On that day, my body will die, but a small amount of my residual energy will remain, which I’ve reserved for Starr. She will exist until the last bit of energy expires. I’ve done this because I believe that the best should be left for last. This way, she will always be the best and last thing that ever lived.

DAY 358

My body has withered, and I haven’t the strength to move anymore. In my mind’s eye, I see the entire animal kingdom collapse. My very soul hurts as I feel them returning to me. I’ve failed miserably.

My mind is weakening. I close my eyes and struggle to maintain the mental block that I hold on Starr, and somehow, I manage to keep it in place. I miss her so very much, and I want to cry, but the most I can do is whimper. My body can no longer produce tears. I close my lids and focus on the future, but the few glimpses I can see are blurry. Some are nothingness. The future is receding. There will never be a Terra, a Caelum, or a beastly little girl named Starr that loves candy. I close my eyes and venture into the darkness of my mind. My pulse beat is faint, and I want to roll over, but my body no longer obeys my commands. I lie in the corner motionless and hear the Voice of Reason cry for us all—for Starr, for me, and for the non-existence of humanity.

DAY 359

The light in the sky where Caelum is supposed to be isn’t there, neither are the stars. A faint falcate moon remains. My chest is glowing brighter, and the wind doesn’t blow. The trees are barren, and there are no animals on the ground. Where did the carcasses go?

I fly to the tallest peak of the mountain, and from there, I observe Terra. The weak moonlight doesn’t provide the visibility I need, so I decide to fly across the land. When I glide over the open field where Deus kept me frozen for so long, I see that where it once stood is a cliff. I land, and I peer down the edge. What I see petrifies me. I’m standing at the edge of the world, staring into a dark abyss. This is all that’s left of Terra, and I shiver at the thought that it might be all that’s left of the universe.

I soar into the woods, searching for any signs of life. I can’t see or hear anything move. Pushing my empathic waves into the forest, I search for the slightest shift, but I can’t sense any emotions. I cringe, knowing that I’m alone—the only living creature, aside from my unborn child, who still exists.

Without a second thought, I launch myself into the air and try to locate the silver radiance of Caelum. I’m so high in the sky that breathing becomes difficult. I search for what seems like eons, and then, at last, I see a faint light in the distance. As I approach the castle, I see less than half of it remains standing—the rest lies in piles of rubble and debris. I think the worst has happened to Deus, and my heart drums loudly in my ears. I land near a small opening on the side of the palace. I wedge myself through.

“Deus!” I say, and I stride across a room that’s, for the most part, still standing. No one answers my call, and I try again. “Deus!” Walking out of the room, I make my way through a mess of stone where I find the throne room. I look around and see nothing. It’s the only room left standing, but Deus isn’t here. I sit on one of the thrones, and I hold my belly.

“He left us,” I tell the child inside me. I sit quiet and still, thinking of what will be of our lives without him. Then, from somewhere in the room, I hear another person’s shallow breathing. I stand and look around. Behind the thrones, under a long, blue velvet curtain, I see a wrinkled hand. I step closer.

“Hello?” I say.

I pull the curtain away from the man’s body. He’s very old, and I can see his blue veins beneath his pale, thin skin. His body is like a mass of bones and flesh. I kneel next to him and see his eyelids are slightly parted. When I peer into his eyes, I see the moon, the leafless trees on Terra, and me.

“Deus!” I cry.

You came home to me, I hear a voice in my head say.

“Is that you? Are you talking inside my head?” I say, blinking away the tears.

Yes. I’m too weak to move. My body is dying.

“You can’t die. You said you were immortal. Tell me you’re lying. Tell me, or… or I’ll hate you forever.”

In a few minutes, there will be no more forever, Starr. I’m fading, and what’s left of the universe will be gone, as well. But I left the finest of all things to exist until the very end.

“Terra?”

You, he says.

I put my hands over my face and sob. “I’m so sorry I told you to leave. I don’t want you to die. Tell me what to do to make you stay.”

[_There’s nothing to do. The end is imminent, _]he says, and his lungs wheeze as he struggles to breathe.

“But I love you!” I shake him. “I love you, Deus. Please, don’t leave me.”

The light in my chest pulses, and I see the shape of a six-pointed star form beneath my skin. I stare at it and wonder what it is, when I hear a voice that doesn’t belong to Deus speaking in my head.

I’m all that’s left of him. I’m the last remaining particle. I exist only in you now, until the end.

“I won’t let it end. How do I save him?” I ask, and the throne room walls begin to crack and crumble.

Have faith in him. Love him. Be one with him again.

“But how?”

The star is the key.

While pieces of the room crash around me, I stare at the light in my chest. I have one single thought of how to become one with Deus: I’ll embed the life he’s given me back into him. But will it work? I take a dagger from my belt, and I slice open my torso. Using my fingers, I dig until I find the pulsating star that’s keeping me alive. It hurts like no other pain I’ve ever felt. When I extract it, I look at Deus’ weathered face and white hair, and I know where this piece of me belongs—in his heart. That’s where he’ll always be in me. I push it into his chest. Nothing happens.

The child in my belly kicks franticly. I watch as his limbs push hard against my stomach, as if trying to find a way to escape from me. The terror that fills me as I feel and observe his desperate spasms rip screams of torment from within my very soul. I’ve sacrificed my innocent child, and I can sense him dying inside me.

“I’m so sorry, my love,” I say to the pointed bumps that form on my belly.

“Starr…” I hear Deus’ voice outside my head, and I shift my eyes to his body. I cry tears both of joy and of sadness when I see him as youthful as ever.

Thank you, I hear the voice in my head say. _Eternity is once more. _

“You’re alive,” I say to Deus. I feel a stabbing ache in my stomach, and I know that the child will be the first to end.

“You’ve aged,” Deus says with a furrowed brow. “What have you done?”

“I returned the life you gave me so that you could live. Your existence is more important than mine will ever be.”

“That’s not true. The universe needs you. I need you. The future can only happen if you’re here… with me. You’re my forever, Starr. Without you, I’m not alive.”

A piercing pain in my abdomen makes me take a sharp breath, and Deus looks down at my overgrown belly. His eyes widen.

“What is that?” he asks. “Is that… are you…?”

I nod and feel the child’s movement cease. “He’s gone,” I say and fall on my side with tears rolling down my face. I know that it won’t be long before I join my little one.

“No…” Deus says. “Nooo!

DAY 365

“Vivere,” I say, looking at Starr’s stomach. She looks into my eyes and shakes her head.

“It’s too late,” she says. “Let it be.”

“Why did you allow this?” I ask the Voice of Reason, aloud. “Why?”

It was her sacrifice to make, the voice says. _Everyone has a choice. _

A light pulses in the room, and when I search for the source, I find it’s coming from my chest. It’s the same pulsating light that emanated from Starr’s chest when I saw her through my blurred vision just minutes ago. All of a sudden, I understand what she meant when she said she had returned the life I gave her. I focus on the star to confirm that it’s comprised of the two triangles of my skin that I used to mold Starr.

“Why is she expiring, if I’m commanding her to live? Why isn’t my child living?” I ask the voice aloud with anger.

Her body cannot live without the core essence you made her from, the Voice of Reason explains. But with you, it was the act of sacrifice and love that returned your life, not the star.

“Make her live,” I demand. “You did this. You fix it!”

That’s not my purpose. You should know what needs to be done.

“But I don’t. Tell me what to do.”

Silence.

“Please… They’re dying!”

Give her back the essence.

Piercing my chest with my fingers, I find the star. I see the open wound in Starr’s chest and place the star in its rightful place. When I press my ear to her belly, I hear nothing

“Vivere,” I whisper to his tiny heart. I wait… and wait, but nothing happens. I close my eyes, and I feel the pain of loss cut deep inside me. Starr puts her hand on my head, and I sob quietly into her stomach. I look at her and see her skin is covered in wrinkles and her hair has turned silver. My child is gone, and the love of my eternal life will follow. “Please!” I let out a muffled scream against her stomach. “Vivere!”

“He’s gone,” Starr says, sobbing. “Our child… our child is gone.”

I wrap my arms around her waist and press my lips on her stomach. Then, for a split second, I think I feel her stomach return my kiss. Starr gasps and stills. When I glance at her, she’s young again, and I take her face and kiss it everywhere. I shift my sight to her stomach, and I put my hand over it.

“Deus…” Starr says. “Something’s different. Something’s shifted.”

Just as I lift my hand away, I see Starr’s stomach bouncing in different areas. It’s like there’s an explosion happening in the interior walls of her curved belly, and I’m in awe. I sit back, and I admire the beautiful woman that carries my child. I love her more now than I did before. How can that be possible?

“Are you alright?” asks Starr.

Nodding, I reach for her. I wrap my arms around her as tightly as I can without hurting her. “You’re the most perfect creature I’ve ever made,” I tell her. She cries on my shoulder, and I release her from my embrace to wipe her cheeks.

“Tears should be children, because they hurt just as much when you lose them,” Starr says. I show her my wet hand, tainted with gold.

“What is that?” Starr asks.

“Your tears. They’re liquid gold.”

“How?”

“I don’t know.” I raise my brow, and then look at my hand again. In my mind, I command the tears to live, and instantly, seven golden children appear around us.

“Where did they come from?” Starr’s jaw drops.

“You said tears should be children. These are our children, conceived of our love.” I pick up a toddler girl and kiss her forehead. “This little one, she looks like you.”

The children gather around us, hugging our legs. The tiniest one reaches for Starr, and she takes him in her arms and squeezes him.

“How can you love someone you’ve only just met so very much?” Starr asks.

“I asked myself the same thing when I made you.” I look at all our children and rub Starr’s belly. “Children, we must take good care of Mother because she’s carrying your sibling.”

“What’s a sibling?” one of the older toddlers asks, climbing on my throne.

“A brother or sister,” I say.

“Will you love the baby more than you love us?” another boy asks.

“Of course not,” Starr answers. “We love you all equally and very, very much.”

I look into Starr’s eyes, and I see what I’ve wished for so long to give her—everlasting joy. For a moment, I bring down the block I’ve placed against her thoughts, and I hear her say, “This life is a blessing.”

DAY 510

“What are you building now, Father?” my shyest son asks. I put him on my lap and show him a piece of wood. “It’s a crib for your brother. He’ll be born today.”

“How do you know it’s a brother and not a sister?”

“I feel it and know it to be so.”

“But how do you know so very many things?”

“When you’re older, I’ll explain it. It’ll make more sense then. Come,” I say, standing. “Your brother is ready to meet you and the rest of our family.”

“Now?” he says, excitement shining from his eyes, and I nod. He runs ahead of me to the new palace.

I find Starr on our bed, sweat beads trailing down her forehead. Our children are gathered around her. Two younger children are in the arms of the eldest. My, how they’ve grown! They observe Starr with broadened stares.

“It’s started,” Starr says, wincing. “Children, you must go and wait outside.”

The children whine and drag their feet as they leave. I close the door behind them.

Thirty-four minutes later, I open the door and all seven children scramble into our room. Starr is cradling our son in her arms, and our youngsters climb into bed with her.

“Careful, children,” I say, patting Starr’s forehead with a damp piece of cloth. “Mother is still not well. She needs rest.”

“Oh, let them be,” Starr says. “They’re curious and excited, like us.”

When the children are done oohing and awing, they hop out of the bed and resume their child’s play. Starr holds our son out to me. I take the tiny body in my arms and sit beside her.

“He’s beautiful, this one,” I say. “But he looks nothing like us.”

“Not now, but maybe when he’s grown, he’ll look like his father.”

“What are we going to call him?” I kiss Starr’s lips.

“Erosmus,” she says, and lets the newborn suck on her finger.

DAY 600

I stand at the top of the highest mountain and strain to see what seems like the edge of the world. Starr says that she actually stood at the edge of the world once, and what she saw was oblivion. She’s taught me more things than I could ever teach her. Starr says what keeps a person’s soul aflame is hope, and in our darkest hour, she never lost it. She says hope is what she has for the future, and I admire her because even after she’s seen the forthcoming gruesome wars, illnesses, famine, and violence, she continues to believe that humanity will find a way to save itself. And I agree.

Today, I’ll marry Starr in a church in future Earth. Our children will be our witnesses, and afterwards, we’ll have a celebration in a park they call Walt Disney World. It’s a strange name for a park.

We’ve chosen to write our own vows, and mine are short, but they say what I feel in my heart.

“Starr, every day, you ignite my soul. You have always been my forever, and my forever you will remain.”

I’ve sewn a beautiful, white dress like the one I saw when I was a child at the first wedding I ever attended. My daughters and I have chosen a Fairy Tale Wedding theme. I’ll finally get to be the princess that marries her prince.

I’ve made the girls beautiful, flowing dresses and adorned their hair with gems—real ones from the cave under the waterfall. The boys will wear suits to match their father’s.

“Where’s the baby?” I ask one of the older boys.

“Father has him,” he says.

“Will you please tell Father I’m ready?” I say, and my son obeys. I love him so much.

I look in the mirror once more and tuck a strand of loose hair behind my ear. Taking the diaper bags, I ask the girls to help with the strollers. I usher them out of the room and grab my wedding vows. I read them aloud one more time.

“Deus, I love you more than candy. On the day you broke your arm, I gave you hallucinogenic mushrooms. You were drooling and acting very goofy. I already loved you then, but I didn’t want you to know. I can’t say what I did to you when I bathed you because our children are here, but you’ll be glad to know the pictures were destroyed in the floods. You will always be my prince. P.S. I cried when you called my herbal remedy piss, and I’m pregnant with twins.”

I drop the paper in my clutch and pop a mint in my mouth before I leave the room.

Forever Begins

[
__]

My husband, Oscar, and my family and friends who put up with my crazy, obsessive nature and continue to support me in spite of it.

My fans—past, present, and future—who help maintain my motivation at the summit of creativity. An eternity’s worth of thanks, and I commend your great taste in books, namely Creatura.

The chatty friends I’ve made on social networks, thank you for understanding the many voices and personalities that go along with being a writer and reading about how delicious my coffee always tastes.

Nely Cab is a Writer of stuff, a Master Coffee Drinker, a Food Maker & Eater, an Imaginary World Conqueror, and an Air Breather. She talks to herself—a lot—in her South Texas home while she plots stories about fantasy worlds and sips coffee from a pitcher. She’s known for cooking far too much food and has a tendency to overdo…well, everything. It is rumored that she is fabulous. Nely Cab is the best-selling author of the Creatura series.

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Creatura, the first book in The Creatura Series is available now! Enjoy this exclusive excerpt today.

DAVID CHIOS

Eros sighed and closed his eyes. “I cannot help you. I’m sorry.”

“Yes, you can, Eros. You must. You have no idea what it’s like to need someone like you need the flow of your own blood.”

“David, you will never be able to procreate from this relationship. It’s against the law. My answer is firm. I can’t help you.”

Eros pressed his temples as if attempting to release the pressure of my petition.

“Eros… I’ve done something to prove my love for her. But I see that your support is too much to ask, brother. I shouldn’t have come.”

“Wait. Hear my thoughts on the matter. To be in love with a human…that’s impossible. You know the prohibitions of such acts. The law is impenetrable.” He walked to the bar again to serve himself another glass of wine. “You mentioned you had done something to prove your love. What exactly have you done, Romeo?”

“Do you really have to ask?” I sighed.

“I need an answer if you want my help.”

“I gifted her something of mine.”

“O Mon Dieu…”

“The Star Crest—my life—it belongs to her now.”

“Merde.” Eros dropped his drink for a second time. “Dahveed, you have done the unthinkable.”

I stared at the shards of glass on the hardwood floor and nodded. “It’s done.”

“You’ve gone insane. It’s suicide!”


Prelude

  • ISBN: 9781634221153
  • Author: Clean Teen Publishing, Inc.
  • Published: 2017-05-09 18:20:26
  • Words: 19409
Prelude Prelude